I'm a bassoonist and when I play in a wind band I often get given a trombone part.

Sometimes I have to transpose a score because it is in E♭𝄞. And sometimes I have to transpose passages that are too high for me to play. I won't be of a standard to play the solos in Rite of Spring anytime soon. So I find myself writing out a lot of scores in a different clef or octave.

Last week I got a score that appeared to have a note tied to the following rest, as appears in bar 49. This is the way I transcribed itbars 47-50 but the bar in the original trombone part looked like this enter image description here

My notation reference (Gould, Behind bars, 72) tells me that this is an "open tie" which is also indicated laissez vibrer.

Now, I understand what this means for a stringed instrument. It means "don't damp the string at the rest".

But my reed won't continue vibrating when I stop blowing, and I must assume something similar applies to trombones.

So clearly the notation doesn't really mean laissez vibrer: it's some sort of metaphor. Can anyone explain what it does mean?

  • 4
    I’d put my money on it being a mistake Jun 22, 2022 at 20:49
  • @ToddWilcox Umm. If I look again at the bars before it, that seems very plausible. Thanks for supplying a clearly necessary dose of commonsense.
    – BoarGules
    Jun 22, 2022 at 21:44
  • Not a string part surely, unless it's on a cello or bass (especially a pizzicato note) or maybe on an open string. It's more common in music for percussion instruments, harps, pianos, guitars etc. Jun 22, 2022 at 23:14
  • 1
    What piece (title, composer) is this, please?
    – Aaron
    Jun 23, 2022 at 23:43
  • 1
    @Aaron It's a band arrangement by J.-P. Labaste of Bad Romance by Lady Gaga (2009).
    – BoarGules
    Jun 24, 2022 at 6:24

5 Answers 5


Was the music in a jazz style? What we have here, I think, is a 'fall'. An instruction to fall off the pitch at the end of a note.

Here are some more 'jazz articulations' from http://www.timusic.net/debreved/jazz-notation/

enter image description here

  • No, not jazz: pop. But in any case the composer or arranger should not be using a tapered tie/slur arc for any of those.
    – BoarGules
    Jun 23, 2022 at 18:00
  • Agreed. Now that I see the mark I don’t think it’s a tie at all. Jun 23, 2022 at 19:18

I have no experience with reed instruments, but on wind instruments like a flute you can end a note two ways: 1. by stopping to blow / slightly opening your lips vs 2. by letting your tongue stop the air stream. If I came across an open tie I would interpret it as the former, which -- very modestly -- causes a tapering off of the note.

And looking at your original trombone part I think it means that you also let the note slide down in pitch. On a flute I'd do that by rolling the instrument in. No idea if there is an equivalent on a bassoon.

  • Yeah I think it’s a fall which is not uncommon in brass parts. Jun 23, 2022 at 19:17
  • @ToddWilcox Ah, is that what it's called. Jun 23, 2022 at 21:17

I'll be "that guy" and go against the crowd here. I've seen similar markings here and there which were deliberately created by the composer to stress that the played note should be held right up to the start of the rest. This stops musicians (either inexperienced or lazy) from terminating the sound sooner than intended.

So it's not exactly "laissez vibrer" but more of an indicator of desired note length.

  • 1
    Why not just put a tenuto over the note? Jun 23, 2022 at 19:18
  • This seems plausible. Maybe what was meant was "if this were a different instrument, laisser vibrer would make literal sense; here, interpret it figuratively." Jun 24, 2022 at 5:23

I'd like to thank all the people who answered or commented. The consensus appears to be it depends, so I can't reasonably accept one answer above the others.

The first issue, raised in an early comment, was Is this accidental or deliberate? I initially assumed it was deliberate, but that assumption was no doubt coloured by the fact that I use Dorico, which makes doing it by accident very hard. Since it's not a notation I ever need, even to read, it took me a while to find out what it was, and how to do it deliberately.

The comments reminded me that it is in fact easy to do, deliberately or accidentally, in other software: simply copy a bar with a pair of slurred notes and delete the second of the pair in the copy. Sibelius, MuseScore, and even old Encore will all let you do that. Sibelius will let you do it with tied notes, too, which looks better, though you might not like the resulting playback. I'm not familiar with Finale, which I know for a fact was used to prepare the trombone score, but I'm guessing it's similar.

And if it is deliberate, then the right interpretation might depend on the kind of music, or the composer/arranger's tendency to make the slur arc serve for things other than slurs: suggestions here included tenuto, 𝆏𝆏 > al niente and fall.

That would be unremarkable. Even when used conventionally, slurs have different meanings for wind (legato), strings (bow-stroke), and voice (syllable).


The answer is in the two bars before. As you can see the last two 8th notes are connected with a slur in both bars. The composer wants you to play that last B in m49 as if it legatoes into a next note, except it's a rest this time.

So yes, you might say it's a tenuto, but the intent is slightly different. I'd play it as a tenuto with a rather smooth ending, not too abrupt.

I don't find this ambiguous at all TBH and would notate it the same way.

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